23 May 2019: A UN Development Programme (UNDP) report calls for increased investment in ensuring the participation of young people in decision-making and governance. The report emphasizes the central role of youth in preventing and responding to violent extremism. The authors drew on case studies from Kosovo, Pakistan and Yemen, among several other sources.
The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development includes several targets and provisions relevant to the inclusion of youth and the prevention of violence. Within SDG 16 (peace, justice and strong institutions), SDG target 16.1 calls for reducing all forms of violence and related death rates everywhere. SDG target 16.7 focuses on ensuring responsive, inclusive, participatory and representative decision-making at all levels. SDG target 16.a focuses on strengthening relevant national institutions to prevent violence and combat terrorism and crime. Additional provisions throughout the 2030 Agenda address the need to include youth and provide for their needs, such as paragraph 23, calling to empower several groups of vulnerable people.
Youth participation has not yet translated into policy influence for preventing violent extremism.
The report titled, ‘Frontlines: Young people at the forefront of preventing and responding to violent extremism,’ is based on a global survey of youth, focus group discussions with youth on their perceptions and aspirations, in-depth interviews with practitioners, and case studies on the positive role of youth in preventing violent extremism in Yemen, Pakistan and Kosovo. The survey finds “increased and substantive” youth participation in initiatives contributing to the prevention of violent extremism. However, the authors state, this momentum has not been translated into significant policy influence or support for youth participation on the ground.
Two key challenges in engaging youth are a lack of funding for youth initiatives, and an absence of meaningful consultation with youth in initiatives to prevent violent extremism. The report recommends beginning by recognizing that young people, their organizations and networks bring particular strengths to preventing violent extremism and peacebuilding efforts, and that these strengths should be nurtured and supported. The report also finds that initiatives focused on women are less common than male-focused initiatives.
UNDP Administrator Achim Steiner said it is vital to “better understand and nurture youth-led action on the ground” in order to design and support effective approaches to prevent violent extremism and uphold human rights. Steiner explained that the report aims to support a “paradigm shift in thinking about youth’s role in preventing violent extremism” to find more effective approaches.
Indeed, youth are “our biggest help,” said Jayathma Wickramanayake, the UN Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth. She called for building on youth’s aspirations and efforts to build resilience and social cohesion.
The report is intended to inform inter-agency collaboration on youth and the prevention of violent extremism. It also contributes to implementation of the UN Secretary-General’s Plan of Action to Prevent Violent Extremism (2016) and the UN Youth Strategy (2018), as well as UN Security Council resolutions on youth, peace and security. The Government of Norway provided support for the report.